13 March 2009

House for an Art Lover by Charles Rennie Mackintosh

One Charles Rennie Mackintosh building is particularly amazing, but not because it was designed 108 years ago and later rescued and renovated. Rather because it was designed 108 years ago and only built very recently.

In 1901 Charles and Margaret entered a competition in a German de­s­ign magazine to design a House for an Art Lover that had to be in a 'thoroughly modern style'. Their entry was disqu­al­if­ied on the grounds of late submission, yet it was awarded a sp­ec­ial prize by the jury: for "the pronounced personal quality, the novel and austere form and the uniform configuration of interior and exter­ior." The drawings were published in the magazine Deutsche Kunst while the full portfolio was published under the title Meister der Innenkunst. Then the designs submitted to the competition were exhibited at the International Exposition in Turin.

Mackintosh’s designs for the House remained just that: plans on pap­er. Decades later, in 1988, someone in Glasgow had the idea of con­structing the Art Lover’s House, of bringing Mackintosh’s plans to fruition.

White house with low relief decoration

As envisaged on the original documents, The House for an Art Lover is large and rect­ang­ular. The external walls are painted white and the main facades are decorated with a few Art Nouveau low relief sculptures, created in sandstone.

Hall and stairs

The front door leads into the grand but rather dark double-height hall. The visitor can look from the main hall into the dining room, a room with very high dark panels that follow the style of the darkish hall. The black table with the black high-backed chairs stand in the centre of the dining room, and dominate the space. Clover Signs Blog asked “have you ever wondered what inspired, or possessed Charles Rennie Mackintosh?” This is a question I have asked myself often. Two rooms are so dark and masculine.

Dining room

On the other hand, there is a very light and feminine space: the music room. The sun streams into the music room, beaming on the light colours of the walls and the decorative elements. Note in particular how luscious the piano, chairs, light fittings and murals look. I don’t know anything about Japanese design, but I am relying here on Daithai C Apparently CRM liked the fact that Japanese arts furniture and design focused on the quality of the space, which was meant to evoke a calming and organic feeling to the interior. I hope that is so because the Music Room is spacious, light filled and calming. Not PC rightly said that Glasgow has never looked so sunlit, or so alive.

Music room

The Art Lover’s House at Bellahouston Park was opened in late summer 1990. The built house and gardens are now an essential element in the Mackin­t­osh heritage trail.


Viola said...

I find CRM very inspiring at times. He was so modern. I am not sure whether I like the lights in the music room, however. They make the ceiling look low.

John Hopper said...

Great article, thanks very much. I go up to Glasgow a couple of times a year and have never thought of visiting, to be honest I didn't know it existed. At least now I shall know where to go for an afternoon!

Hels said...

I love the idea that an architect and furniture designer would turn his hand to other arts and crafts, and do well in all these diverse skills.

What is the name of Mackintosh-designed fabric, seen in your post
http://thetextileblog.blogspot.com/2008/05/mackintosh-art-nouveau-or-arts-crafts.html? Was it used in any of his projects, as far as you know?


John hopper answered...
It seems harder today to be able to cross disciplines, as so many are the result of professional college and university courses. However, a hundred years ago things seemed a little more relaxed and perhaps more creative.

As to the fabric, it doesn't as far as I know, have a name. It was commissioned by William Foxton Ltd in 1918, a company that also commissioned the likes of Claude Lovat Fraser, Constance Irving, F Gregory Brown and Minnie McLeish at around the same time as the Mackintosh design.

As I said, William Foxton Ltd commissioned the Mackintosh design though I have no evidence that it was actually put into production or used successfully. I only have an image of the painted design not the actual fabric, so who knows.

Mackintosh was not a huge success in Britain, particularly as far as textiles were concerned. It all seemed a little frighteningly modern to the British at the time, though by the 1920s they were getting used to the idea!

By the way, I find your blog really interesting and I hope to set some time aside in the next couple of days to read through it.

It's always great when you come across a blog that you actually want to read, thanks!

Hels said...

Daithaic C replied to your comment on Charles Rennie Mackintosh:

Hels - Sorry for the delay in commenting, I didn't have your comment referred. I think it's an interesting question because at the beginning of the C20 Glasgow & Barcelona were comparable cities in terms of size wealth and class divide but since then their trajectory has divided. Glasgow has largely lost its meaning as a city as its industrial base has been obliterated leaving its artistic and educational communities stranded but Barcelona has found its metier as a World City and capital of resurgent Catalonia.

Both Gaudi & Mackintosh were part of and fed off a larger artistic community but other than their originality there seems to be little reciprocal influences. You could argue that neither achieved their potential, Mackintosh by being unsuccesful, alienated and adopting painting in later life and Gaudi by burying himself in a single project.